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of greater services than STEELE received from that writer. And still less ground has this Biographer for accusing STEELE of ingratitude in preferring Addison to Swift *.
STEELE appears to have begun the paper without any concert, or hope of assistance than what might come spontaneously. His chief dependence was on his intelligence, which gave him a superiority over his contemporaries, who were merely news-writers, and had never discovered that a periodical paper might furnish instruction of a better and more lasting kind. In the other parts of the TATLER, he was at first less careful; his style had a familiar vulgarity not unlike that of the journalists of the age, which he adopted either in compliance with the prevailing manner, or by way of disguise. În one he acknowledges“ incorrectness of style," and writing “ in an air of common speech.”. All this however became a tatler, and for some time he aimed at no higher character to But when associated with ADDISON, he assumed a
* See STIILE'S Preface to the Original Octavo Edition, 1710, prefixed to the first volume of this edition.
+ STBILE, in reply to TICKELL's assertion, that ADDISON advanced the Tatler, says, very candidly, “ It was advanced indeed, for it was raised to a greater thing than I intended it ; for the elegance, purity, and correctness, which appeared in his writings, were not so much to my purpose, as in any intelligible manner I could, to rally all those singularities of hu. man life, through the different professions and characters in it, which obstruct any thing that was truly good and great.". Dedication to the Comedy of the Drummer.
tone more natural to a polished and elegant mind, and dispersed his familiarities among his characteristic correspondents. If he did not introduce, he was the first who successfully employed the harmless fiction of writing letters to himself, and by that gave a variety of amusement and information to his paper, which would have been impracticable had he always appeared in his own character. All succeeding EssAYISTS have endeavoured to avail themselves of a privilege so essential to this species of composition, but it requires a mimickry of style and sentiment which few have been able to obtain.
ADDISON is said to have first discovered STEELE to be the author of the TATLER by a criticism of his own introduced in No. 6. The criticism is not of great importance unless to those commentators who make a favourite author the model of all excellence, and are determined to find a beauty in every particle *. ADDISON was at this time in Ireland, secretary to Lord WHARTON, Lord Lieutenant, and gave Steele an early proof of his regard by sending contributions to his work. In No. 18, the “ Distress of Newswriters” is certainly his, and the first part of the paper, on sign-posts, has very much of his manner. No. 20, is likewise assigned to him, although the first article has more of Swift's indelicacy of manner. His other papers are assigned in the tables of contents on indubitable authority *.
* An ingenious conjecture on this criticism is given in the TATLER, cr. oct. 6 vols, 1786.
Such an assistant was of incalculable value to STEELE, who began to sacrifice his original plan by degrees, and as his views became enfarged and public attention more generally drawn to the paper, soon rose to the dignity of a teacher of wisdom and morals. His improvement, if I mistake not, is visible from about No. 82 or 83; No. 92, 95, 109, and 132, may be referred to for their superior excellence. The latter is much in the Addisonian manner.
STEELE's admirable papers on duelling were among the first successful attacks on that remnant of barbarism. They are supposed to have been originally written in consequence of his being involved in a duel with a brother officer of the Coldstream regiment, about the year 1706.
* The authorities for the assignment of papers are almost all taken from the Edition of 1786 ; and the language of the Editor of that curious and useful work may be adopted here with propriely. « Considering that there are no signau'res ja the Tailer, to facilitate the discoveries of the writers, and that their names were chiefly to be learnt from information, or from a minute attention to little circumstances in the Papers themselves; the intelligence of this sort in the present colleca tion is rather more ample than there was any just reason to expect. Meanwhile, the line that divides conjecture from certainty has seldom, if ever, been transgressed : and in every doubtful case, the Paper is always ascribed to Steele, the only ostensible author. This rule has been observed even in instances where there is more than ground to suspect that Steele was not the writer.” Advertisement to Edit. 1786, cr. okt. VI. Vol. p. 6.
It may be necessary, however, to mention that, in assigning the papers of the Tatler to their respective authors, we have better authority to follow in almost every case than in that of STEELE himself, because it has been the custom to prefix his name to every paper of which no other writer is known. In this arrangement, he is the ostensible author of upwards of one hundred and seventy of these papers; but it must be observed that although as Editor of the papers he was responsible for their contents, he composed many of them from the contributions or hints of his correspondents, principally short letters written by the wits of the age, in which they sometimes imitated his manner with a considerable
gree of success; and not unfrequently he borrowed from his library short extracts, which he gave with an introduction or comment. On one occasion of very pinching distress, he began a Journal of the Iliad, of which he seems afterwards ashamed ; and on another occasion he published some private letters he had sent to his second wife. "These shifts, however, occur chiefly among the earlier papers: his matter soon became proportioned to his wants, and he acquired by constant efforts a happier and easier mode of conimunicating his observations on life and manners. YOL. I.
It appears that some part of the popularity of the TATLER, during their first publication, was owing to a very prevalent opinion, that the characters described in an unfavourable light, and held up to ridicule or contempt, were real. Of this many hints are given ; and the question is very artfully obscured in every attempt to decide it. That some of the characters, both good and bad, were real, has been ascertained beyond all doubt: allusions to the events of the times are so frequent as to render it necessary to introduce the actors. We may instance the Bangorian controversy, which in itself however was perhaps too serious for the kind of ridicule employed. Religious controversy, when conducted with asperity and calumny, might often afford a proper subject of ridicule; but the attempt is dangerous, and we must never forget that the matter or object of all religious controversy, however misrepresented, is of eternal importance. The peevishness of Bishop BLACKALL, it must notwithstanding be confessed, is parodied with great humour in the letters of the puppet-shew man, which have been admired by many readers who looked no farther than to the affected consequence of a vagrant of that mean employment.
In No. 51, STEELE has apologized for his interference in this controversy with considerable shrewdness.
Besides the gamblers, many of whom were certainly real characters, a few of a more